Infrastructure has doubts and delays generated by government – 03/15/2023 – Market
The performance of the Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) government in the area of transport has been leaving investors in doubt and generating delays in project schedules. The situation affects highways, ports and airports and is linked to political and ideological disputes.
The PT’s orientation against privatizations paralyzed the project to transfer the port of Santos to the private sector, as well as the last airports of the state-owned company Infraero. The performance of the party’s president, Gleisi Hoffmann, has still stalled the concession of highways in Paraná.
Also on the advice of the government, Minister Márcio França (Ports and Airports) ruled out that concessionaires could fulfill their obligations with the government using precatorios (debts to be paid by the State to taxpayers, after a court decision). The mechanism was created by constitutional amendment and its veto generates concern in the sector.
This week, France starred in yet another episode — in this case, for announcing a measure without superior approval. He told the Correio Braziliense newspaper in an interview published on Sunday (13) that he was preparing a program to sell airline tickets at R$200 for low-income people, but it was disallowed.
On Tuesday (14), he was scolded by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva – who forbade ministers to launch “genialities” without first consulting the Civil House. France was not present and was not mentioned explicitly.
First, through its advisory, the ministry said that the message was for the entire Esplanada. However, the minister took on the criticism of journalists during the launch of the Joint Parliamentary Front for Ports and Airports, recognizing that the proposal did not go through the Civil House.
The minister reiterated, however, that the project does not involve public subsidy and that it is being developed by the Civil Aviation Secretariat (SAC). “As soon as it is formulated, it will be presented for consideration by the Civil House,” he said in a note.
At the time of the transition, France had already asked for the suspension of ongoing privatizations.
On another front, his portfolio has already been questioned by airport concessionaires who intend to pay a portion of the initial grant contribution with precatories. His position was clear: refuse these papers as payments in concessions.
At the end of 2021, Congress approved a constitutional amendment allowing the use of these papers to pay concessions in a “self-applicable” way, but in some wings of the new government it is still seen as necessary to create a more robust methodology to release transactions .
The situation is already embarrassing five concessions – three of them at airports, including the block led by Congonhas, auctioned at the end of last year, and two railways. Rumo went to court to discuss the matter.
The use of precatories was a measure designed by Jair Bolsonaro’s former Minister of Economy, Paulo Guedes, and defended by the Attorney General’s Office of the National Treasury as a way to reduce the Union’s debt and attract investors.
As there is an annual payment schedule for precatorios, accepting them as currency in concessions would not bring about major changes.
The new government, however, disagrees. Although there are regulations for the reduction of debts of taxpayers with precatorios, there is no operational process for the use of these papers in the payment of concessions.
Despite this, compliance with the Constitution is considered urgent by federal prosecutors heard anonymously.
A Sheet asked if the Ministry of Ports and Airports would ignore the constitutional provision of the mechanism. Through its advisory, the ministry reported that “it is still awaiting an ordinance from the AGU (Attorney General of the Union) and that, at this moment, it is reassessing the use of precatories to pay grants”.
In the case of the port of Santos, an impasse was created and the project approved by the TCU (Tribunal de Contas da União) is paralyzed.
PT wings prefer to keep the terminal under public management and grant the channel and warehouses. This model, however, does not meet the interests of groups that use the port for exports —especially those based in São Paulo and the Midwest.
The heavy investments to double capacity would only come to fruition, according to these groups, if the entire port were privatized.
The governor of São Paulo, Tarcísio de Freitas —former Minister of Infrastructure, responsible for conducting the privatization project for the port— tries with the federal government to approve a plan B, capable of pleasing the various interested parties.
So far, however, talks have not progressed. Although the chief minister of the Civil House, Rui Costa, has publicly said that the government “has no dogmas” on the subject, França has stated that the port of Santos, the largest in Latin America, will not be privatized.
“In the port of Santos, concessions of terminals and port services will be carried out”, said the folder through its advisory. “However, the port authority will be kept public.”
In addition to technical differences, there is enormous resistance in the PT to the governor of São Paulo, a political godson of Jair Bolsonaro. Lula tries to appease the feelings, but the pressure from the party does not abate.
On the highways, the president of the party, Gleisi Hoffmann, is the protagonist of one of the biggest political clashes using her influence in the government to modify a project of the governor of Paraná, Ratinho Junior (PSD).
The clash involves the Minister of Transport, Renan Filho (MDB-AL), and the Civil House over the concession of more than 44,000 km of highways in Paraná. The project should require investments of more than R$ 90 billion.
“Regarding highway concessions in Paraná for new tolls, the transition team of the Lula government is analyzing the change in the criteria for the auction to lower the tariff price and will request an amendment to the invitation to bid in this regard”, stated Gleisi in November.
Earlier this month, details of the project were to be announced at an event with the governor, but it was canceled at the last minute. According to advisors, an agreement would be announced for the first 2 lots of highways —out of a total of 6— to be auctioned. Both have already been approved by the TCU.
This announcement was made after several meetings between Minister Renan Filho and the Civil House. The first meeting, however, was scheduled at the request of Gleisi, who tried to undermine the project, according to reports, to modify it completely.
The PT president does not agree with the approved concession model, which makes it difficult to reduce tolls. For ANTT (National Land Transport Agency) and for TCU technicians, the concession’s cash could be put at risk, threatening investments, if the tariff reduction is motivated by political use.
According to the previously approved modeling, there is a scale of own investments to be made throughout each year by the concessionaire so that it has the right to grant toll discounts.
This clause guarantees that there will always be money in the cash register (through the obligatory deposit) for any emergency, even with the reduction in the toll value.
Since 2019, the government of Paraná has been trying to make the concession of 3,300 kilometers of state and federal highways that cross the state possible, of which 1,782 kilometers need duplication works.
This week, Ratinho Junior’s deputy sent a letter to the minister asking him to speed up the concession. The matter, still according to advisors, ended up on President Lula’s desk.
When consulted, Gleisi Hoffmann said, via a spokesperson, that the reduction of tolls on Paraná’s highways is a campaign commitment by the state PT and President Lula, which implies a new model of concession, still under construction within the scope of the federal government.